While Robinson Cano returned Tuesday to the Mariners’ lineup, it quickly became clear that he’s not fully recovered from the strained right quadriceps muscle that sidelined him for 11 games.
Cano displayed diminished range at second base and ran gingerly to first base on two infield grounders while going hitless in three at-bats in a 10-1 loss to Washington at Nationals Park.
It also validated the Mariners’ earlier decision to put Cano on the disabled list — a decision he admitted he opposed.
"I was willing to play with one leg," he said, "but they were like, `No, no. We don’t want it to get worse.’ It’s life. The last 10 years, I’ve been playing every game.
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"The hardest thing is just to sit down and watch the game. It’s something for me that’s really hard."
The Mariners need Cano’s bat. They scored just 32 runs in their last 12 games, a span that corresponds to his absence and Tuesday’s loss to the Nationals. They are also 3-9 in those games.
"It was good to have Robby out there," manager Scott Servais said. "I know he wasn’t at 100 percent, and he’s trying to work his way through it. But it was good to have him out there."
An American League player returning from a strained quad might normally draw restricted duty as a designated hitter. That’s not possible for Cano for two reasons.
First, the games in Washington are played under National League rules, which means no DH. And second, if the DH were available — as it will be again this weekend in Boston — the Mariners would likely fill it with Nelson Cruz.
Not only is Cruz their full-time DH, but he’s been battling a strained left hamstring in recent weeks.
When the Mariners chose to put Cruz in right field on Tuesday, in order to keep his bat in the lineup, it marked his first outfield assignment since March when he played for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.
"We have a very good center fielder (Jarrod Dyson) who can run down a lot of balls," Servais reasoned prior to the game. "So (the message to Cruz was) catch what’s coming to you in that area and don’t try to overdo it."
That didn’t happen.
A slicing two-out fly ball by Trea Turner in the fourth inning eluded a twisting Cruz for an RBI triple and opened the flood gates. What had been a 3-0 deficit turned into 10-0 before Christian Bergman recorded the inning’s final out.
Fast forward to Wednesday.
The Mariners still need to get their attack back on track. (They ranked second in the league in runs per game prior to their 12-game nap.) They chose to keep a still-ailing Cano at second, but Cruz didn’t start.
Coming into the series, playing him two out of three is what I was hoping to do. With the left-hander (Gio Gonzalez) going (Thursday), I definitely wanted him in there.
He’s not happy. He want to be in there every day. He knows what he means to our offense. But we’re trying to look at a little bigger picture. We’ll get him in there (Thursday) against the lefty. We got to Boston. He’ll play those games. Then we’ll deal with Colorado when we get there.”
The two games in Colorado will also be played without a designated hitter.
***The Mariners turn to right-hander Sam Gaviglio (0-0 with a 1.29 ERA) in an attempt to halt their streak of blowout losses. He got a no-decision in his last start despite pitching five scoreless innings. This is his third big-league appearance.
***Washington is starting right-hander Tanner Roark (3-2, 4.73) in the game, which begins at 4:05 p.m. Pacific time. He is winless this month in four starts and permitted 11 runs and 14 hits over 9 2/3 innings in his last two starts.
***Roark is 4-5 with a 2.84 ERA in14 career interleague games. His only previous appearance against the Mariners was Aug. 31, in 2014 at Safeco Field, when he gave up four runs and 11 hits in 6 1/3 innings in a 5-3 loss.
***That 2014 victory over Roark is the only time the Mariners have beaten Washington in the last 13 games between the two clubs.
***One consequence of giving up 34 runs over the last three games is the Mariners now have the American League’s worst ERA at 4.96. It’s not the worst in the majors, though. Next-to-last. The New York Mets are at 5.09.
***The Mariners have never won in Washington. They are 0-7: 0-3 at old RFK Stadium, and now 0-4 at Nationals Park. Washington holds 14-5 edge in the all-time series.
***Nationals catcher Matt Wieters has a 10-game hitting streak, which matches a career high previously achieved in 2011 while playing for Baltimore.
***Shortstop Jean Segura opened Tuesday’s game with a single and is 14-31 with one walk and two hit-by-pitches as the leadoff hitter in the first inning. That’s a .452 average and a .500 on-base percentage.
It was 22 years ago Wednesday — May 24, 1995 — that Mike Blowers tied a club record by driving in eight runs in a 15-6 victory over Boston at the Kingdome.
Blowers had a homer, two triples and a double in five at-bats, which raised his average from .118 to .179. The game started a resurgence for Blowers, who finished the season at .257 with career highs of 23 homers and 96 RBIs.
The eight RBIs tied the record set by Alvin Davis in 1986 and matched by Mike Cameron in 2001.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners